6633 Arctic Ultra: CP6 to CP7 (Inuvik to Gateway)
We leave the checkpoint at Inuvik just as the sun is rising, suitably refreshed and ready to tackle the remaining 100 miles. On leaving we're told to wrap up as it's -32'c further down the course, we heed their advice, wrap up and get going!
We're both feeling great right now, we're ticking off the miles and dreaming of the finish line at Tuktoyaktuk. We're very confident........too much too soon?
We're sticking to our 2 hour on/15min off schedule and also adding in a quick stretch every hour; Hayley's ankle is sore and our bodies are tired, so these 2 minutes stretches really helped with the tightness we were feeling (in pretty much all of our muscles). The course is hillier than expected, we knew it was due to flatten out soon, and it didn't come soon enough as some of these hills were now taking their toll on us (the race director said this part of the course is undulating, not hilly, I beg to differ. It might be undulating in a nice warm 4x4 truck, but it's certainly hilly on foot, after 7 days of hiking).
The route now is quite open, there is little tree cover and where there are trees they're stunted by the cold. In fact, the further North we've been travelling the less and less trees we've seen, I guess a result of the colder Arctic conditions as we move nearer to the Arctic Ocean.
We stop for a break and the offical photographer, Weronika, stops for a chat and takes a few photographs. As I'm changing my socks I notice some paw prints, I ask Weronika what they're from (she's a local, so knows her wildlife) and says they're too big for a coyote or wild dog, they're wolf prints! We hadn't seen any wolves so far (a colleague did see a big black wolf on Wrights Pass), but I was keeping my eyes peeled from this point on! Check out their paw prints in the photo below!
It's now mid-afternoon and Hayley is starting to struggle. Her pace dropped dramatically and something had to be done, we couldn't carry on like this. I ask her to pull over, at exactly the same time we both say that she needs a sleep.....great minds and all that. We ignored the bivvy for the first time and simply lay face down on our sleds and were out in seconds. For some reason we both woke up after 5 minutes. I decided we needed more time, so set my alarm for 15 minutes and back to sleep we went for a super-quick power nap.
We woke up and Hayley was like a new person! Brilliant, this power nap thing could be the answer to get us to that finish line in Tuktoyaktuk!
We cracked on in the daylight for another few hours, back into our 2 hour on/15min off schedule and a quick stretch every hour, we're making good ground, but still with a long way to go until we get to the next check point at Gateway.
We start to lose the daylight and darkness soon fails. Almost immediately Hayley is struggling again and her pace drops. We don't know exactly how far it is until the next checkpoint, but I guessed that we still had another 3 or 4 hours of hiking ahead of us. Hayley is now all over the road, hallucinating and mumbling all kinds of gibberish. She doesn't want to stop and bivvy, I'm now starting to properly worry about her. I'm considering stopping her and physically forcing her into her bivvy, instead we stop, have a chat, have a very quick coffee, I tell her she's mumbling and force some shortbread down her. She says she wants to just get this stage done, so we carry on and somehow she continues putting one foot in front of the other; she doesn't get any better, but she doesn't get any worse.
We continue on and reach a small metal bridge, we've been hoping to see this bridge for so long as we know it's about 3 miles to the check point from here. This is a massive boost. We continue on for another hour or so until we're met by Jonny, one of the medics, to tell us it's another mile to the check point. This was probably the longest mile of our lives, but we got there......somehow. This was a huge stage for us. Hayley had really gutted this one out, she's a machine! We had a quick celebratory hug and then almost automatically, got on with the next phase.
This check point was a trailer again, so there was very little there, but we decided to sleep in the trailer for 3 1/2 hours. The trailer was freezing, but we thought it made sense to sleep inside, rather than outside, to protect us from the wind. This was a mistake! Even though we slept solidly, when we woke it was absolutley baltic, I don't think I've ever been so cold. We were both shivering and needed to move quickly to warm up.
We refilled our thermos flasks and got going. We still had over 50 miles to go, the sun was coming up and that was the only positive thing right now.
CP6 to CP7 (Inuvik to Gateway) 43 miles (total: 329 miles)